Today was the launch date in 1972 of Apollo 16.

The later missions to the moon don’t get nearly as much attention as the earlier ones, but they are full of fascinating stories.

Like how the Apollo 16 astronauts almost had a disaster on their lunar-suited hands during a kind of “lunar Olympics.”

Remember that this mission was just a little over a year after Apollo 14’s Alan Shepard hit a golf ball on the moon.

It was also happening during an Olympic year.

So Apollo 16’s Charlie Duke and John Young decided to use the last bit of a spacewalk to show off the amazing feats that people can do when they’re in lunar gravity, about one-sixth as much as the gravity on Earth.

First up was the high jump, and Duke did quite a leap, some four feet in the air.

But there was a problem.

He made the jump wearing a space suit that weighed something like 300 pounds on Earth.

It was heavy and bulky and it changed Duke’s center of gravity.

So as he fell back to the moon’s surface, his body started straightening out.

Duke ended up landing on his backpack… which was home to his life support system.

If the impact of his fall had broken that system, or ripped his suit, that would have been it for Charlie Duke.

Even if Young had raced over and gotten his colleague into the lunar module, it wouldn’t have been fast enough.

Fortunately, the suit held up just fine.

And Duke said he learned an important lesson: “Never do anything in space that you haven’t practiced.”

So, if you plan on going to the moon on a future mission and you want to do a high jump up there, first, make sure you try the move out during your training.

And second, make sure you stick the landing.

Today in 1947, the birthday of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

He’s best known as one of basketball’s all time greats, but he also won a lot of fans as one of the stars of the iconic movie Airplane!

One of the producers told AV Club they had offered the player $30,000 to do the movie.

His agent asked for $35,000, because Kareem wanted to buy a certain rug.

The filmmakers weren’t really convinced, but sure enough, a few weeks later, they said they saw Abdul-Jabbar in a magazine article standing in front of his $35,000 rug.

I bet that rug really tied the room together.

An Apollo astronaut explains how he nearly killed himself ‘horsing around’ on the moon in 1972 (Business Insider)

Surely you can’t be serious: An oral history of Airplane! (AV Club)

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Image via NASA